Gospel: Lk 9:51-56
As the time drew near when Jesus would be taken up to heaven, he made up his mind to go to Jerusalem. He sent ahead of him some messengers, who entered a Samaritan village to prepare a lodging for him. But the people would not receive him, because he was on his way to Jerusalem. Seeing this, James and John, his disciples, said, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to reduce them to ashes?” Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went on to another village.
At the time of Jesus Palestine was divided into three regions: Galilee in the north, Judea in the south, and Samaria in the middle. This meant that the shortest route from Galilee to Judea was through Samaria. Now in the 4th century B.C. the Samaritans had erected a temple on Mt. Gerizim, in the center of Samaria, to rival the temple of Jerusalem on Mt. Zion. The Samaritan temple had been destroyed in 128 B.C. by John Hyrcanus, a high-priest of Judea. The site, however, was still a place of worship at the time of Jesus. And the Samaritans resented the fact that Galileans snubbed their Mt. Gerizim and instead went to worship in Jerusalem. This explains why, as we see in today’s gospel reading, they refuse to welcome Jesus and his troop of Galileans all headed toward the detested Jerusalem.
This rejection inflames the hot-tempered James and John, who want to retaliate by burning the place to the ground. These two well deserve their nickname of “sons of thunder” (Mk 3:17). In contrast, one can only admire the restraint of Jesus, who refuses to punish the Samaritans’ rudeness. How would we have reacted in his place?